An economist who led the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) during the Obama administration has declared his support for building the Keystone XL pipeline. The news is a setback for environmental activists who are trying to pressure financial institutions into boycotting the project.

The Obama administration delayed the permitting process for years and tried to block the pipeline. But Adam Sieminski, who served as EIA Administrator from 2012 until earlier this year, said he disagreed with former president Barack Obama’s decision to oppose the pipeline.

“One opinion I don’t have to stifle anymore is that I think the Keystone XL pipeline should have been built,” Sieminski told Axios in an interview this week. The pipeline would connect major oil fields in Canada and Montana with refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

At the same time, the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) announced a series of protests targeting banks this week. Based in San Francisco, RAN is a “keep it in the ground” activist group opposed to all development of oil, natural gas and coal. This week’s protests are planned mostly for cities on the east and west coasts, and none are currently scheduled for the states along the pipeline route – Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.

“The fight against KXL was never just about a pipeline,” RAN said on a webpage promoting the protests. “It has always been and continues to be a struggle between opposing views for our collective future. Banks are a major part of this story and therefore must be a major part of our struggle,” the group said.

The Obama administration, under pressure from “keep it in the ground” environmental groups, delayed its decision on the Keystone pipeline for years, before finally rejecting the project in late 2015, just before the start of a high-profile round of United Nations climate talks in Paris. But the Trump administration has put the project back on track, issuing a key federal permit to the pipeline’s developers last month.

Supporters of the project are quick to point out that environmental reviews by the Obama administration contradicted the talking points of the activists. Environmental impact studies, conducted by the U.S. State Department because the pipeline would cross an international border, repeatedly found no significant increase in greenhouse gases from the project. Keystone XL supporters also argued that pipelines are a much safer method of transporting oil than by road or rail.

As Western Wire has reported, officials in states along the pipeline route welcomed the federal permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, although the project still requires some approvals in Nebraska before it can proceed.

The Nebraska Public Service Commission, the state agency in charge of the permitting process, “will conduct a thorough and fair review” of the project and potential pipeline routes, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) said after the Trump administration’s decision. But the federal approval “is a welcome step forward to securing improved energy infrastructure in Nebraska and nationally, while also creating jobs and ensuring our energy independence,” Ricketts said.

Sieminski now serves as the James R. Schlesinger Chair for Energy and Geopolitics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.